We Need to Talk About That 2-D Café in “To All the Boys: Always and Forever”

updated Mar 3, 2021
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Credit: Courtesy of Netflix

One of the first scenes in Netflix’s new To All the Boys: Always and Forever shows Lara Jean Song Covey (Lana Condor) sitting down in a café to write a postcard to her boyfriend, Peter Kavinsky (Noah Centineo). It couldn’t be a more fitting start to the final installment of a franchise about a teenager obsessed with love letters. The thing is, Lara Jeans seems to be writing this letter … inside of a drawing? Everything around her is black and white, and there’s an illusion that it’s all two-dimensional. This isn’t a set built just for the film, though. Always and Forever shot at a real cafe in Seoul, South Korea that is famous for its Instagrammable, 2-D aesthetic. 

In the movie, Lara Jean visits Seoul with her family. She and her sisters (Anna Cathcart, Janel Parrish) visit locations that their late mother told them about, and have a great time exploring the city. We see karaoke. We see a stunning hotel pool. And we see plenty of delicious food. There’s freshly made noodles and dumplings, towering ice cream cones, and finally, cupcakes and coffee at the trendy two-toned cafe.

And it turns out, you can visit the cafe, too. (You know, once it’s safe to travel again.) The unique coffee shop is called Greem Cafe, and there are actually a few locations. There is one in Seoul in the Yeonnam neighborhood, one at the Jeju Aerospace Museum in the city of Seogwipo, one in the city of Gangneung, and one all the way in Saudi Arabia. 

According to a 2019 Architectural Digest write-up about the café, it’s inspired by an animated webseries called W about a character who is caught between reality and a cartoon world. In Korean, the word “greem” can mean cartoon or painting. Greem Cafe’s marketing manager, J.S. Lee, told Architectural Digest, “I think almost all coffee brands supply similar coffee taste,” but visitors to Greem “want to make unique memories in a memorable place.” In fact, the café had to establish a rule that photos can’t be taken until a customer makes a purchase. 

To achieve the 2-D look, the entire cafe is painted white with stark black outlines on everything from the tables and chairs to the coffee mugs to the floor. Paintings of plants and picture frames cover the walls. Against the striking background, brightly colored desserts and sandwiches stand out. 

Always and Forever ended up shooting in Greem Cafe after it was suggested by Jenny Han, the author of the To All the Boys book series. 

“That location was a recommendation from a friend because she goes to Korea all the time,” Han told BuzzFeed. “So I was like, ‘What’s one of the hot places to go that’s really aesthetic?’ And she told me about it, so then I told them. I was like, ‘Please go to this place!’” Han added, “I was so pleased that it ended up being one of [the] opening scenes.”

While I’m not sure this is the aesthetic I would want for my own kitchen (can you imagine?), it would be pretty trippy to see in person for an hour or two at a café! To see more of Greem Cafe, check out the coffee shop’s Instagram account. As you might expect, posts are frequent.